[WHITE]: Poems

Univ. of Georgia. Sept. 2021. 88p. ISBN 9780820360393. pap. $19.95. POETRY
“I want poems like this—/ all edge and gather and mine,” says Ketner, who gives readers poems that feel sculpted on the page as they examine whiteness in the arts and beyond. Ketner’s obsession with artist Robert Rauschenberg (whose work combined everyday objects and oddities to create a cross between painting and sculpture) informs verse that blends ekphrastic poetry with a script for a play and unattributed quotations from the artist themself; there are also historical references to Rauschenberg’s many lovers and how his art transformed over years. The poems range widely, with titles in the first section taken from tarot, a practice that Ketner taught themself in two weeks: “I wanted the words// like a forgery, to come out/ layer upon lay-// er over a ground of the invisible,/ so thick is their language.” Elsewhere, the speaker reflects on their “becoming” as a bisexual, nonbinary person in Minneapolis and visiting the bridge where poet John Berryman ended his life in 1972, prompting reflections on grief, symbolism, and Berryman’s legacy: “I am neither built, nor being built. And the suddenness of it…—a quiet and steady dread.”
VERDICT “White is not blank nor is it pure,” notes Ketner in a formally striking work that moves beyond the personal to a larger understanding of the world. A National Poetry Series selection; poetry fans will want.
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